Two ears and one mouth is all you have in sales

Sure it’s a cliche, but for a reason. You make sales by listening, not speaking.
However, we’re sales superstars. We have the gift of the gab, right? Our products are great, and we have a lot to say about them. As long as we can spew it all out there, nothing can stop us, right? Wrong.
A good listener will always make more sales than a good talker. Here’s why, and here’s what you can do to improve your listening skills.

Why listening is important

People buy from people they like. You know this. What kind of salesperson do you think is more likeable? The one who can’t stop talking, or the one who makes their prospects feel like they’re being listened to? People like to be listened to. It satisfies their ego, making them feel important, putting them in the mood to buy.
When you really listen to what your prospects have to say, you get the chance to identify their needs, their drivers, their pain points. Gather that information. If you actually take in what they’re saying, you’ll have more opportunities to help them identify their desire for whatever you’re selling.
Finally, if you give your prospects time to talk, when it’s your turn to reply, there’s more chance of you saying something worthwhile.

So why don’t we do it?

If listening is so important, so useful to making sales, why are a lot of us so poor at it?
On one hand, it’s an ego thing. We’re salespeople, we like to talk. We like to be the centre of attention, to show off our knowledge. We believe it’s the way to get people to buy.
On the flip side, we’re scared. If we don’t spew out everything we can, if we don’t tell our prospect every fact about our product, they won’t hear the fact that makes them buy. It’s better to just talk and talk. The winning line will come out eventually.

How to be a better listener

So if listening is so important, how can we become better at it?
There’s a simple method, almost too simple. Don’t talk.
When you’re selling to a prospective customer, stop talking. Give them the stage. People don’t like silence, it unnerves them. If you keep what you say to a minimum, simply pointing them towards a subject, they’ll fill that silence with golden nuggets of information. They will spill everything that you want to know. They will help you sell to them.
Ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Stay engaged. Listen to what they say, and make a note of the important bits, either physically or mentally. Make them know you’ve listened by repeating certain parts back to them.
Don’t interrupt, even if the speaker is lost, boring or what they’re saying is wrong. Aside from being rude, it destroys their flow. Definitely don’t do that thing where you finish their sentence for them.
Don’t spend the time they’re talking planning what you’re going to say next. It will show in your eyes. Just listen.

Then speak more effectively

I’ve concentrated a lot on the two ears so far, and as we’re about a third of the way through the article, it’s time for the one mouth part.
When it’s your turn to speak, make it count.
You’ve got them to talk by asking the right questions, and letting them see you’re listening. When they’ve exhausted everything they have to say, it’s your opportunity.
Use the information they have given you to address their needs with specific solutions. Speak with confidence, make sure that they’re listening to you by checking they understand. Build a relationship by giving your pitch that personal touch.
Watch your non-verbal communication too. Make sure you’re dressed well, your body language is on point, you make eye contact. You’ll put yourself in prime position to make the sale.
Over to you now. Do you have any tips on honing your listening skills? What’s the least number of words you have said to make a sale? Leave a comment below to let us know.
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About the Author

James Ski works for Linkedin and advises companies on recruitment, employer branding and how to achieve scalable, predictable sales growth.
If you would like to be first to read his published posts focused on sales confidence sign up to his blog here
You can also follow him on Linkedin or on Twitter @jamesas
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